Your Brain on Narcissistic Abuse: Cognitive Dissonance, Trauma Bonding & Healing in Recovery

Your Brain on Narcissistic Abuse: Cognitive Dissonance, Trauma Bonding & Healing in Recovery

As a survivor of narcissistic abuse, I know how hard it can be to believe you could have been abused by someone you thought loved you. It’s not just that they were charming, seductive, and desirable. It’s also that they seemed to care about you. You may have even felt loved – at least on some level. It’s hard to imagine that everything you thought was true about your relationship might have been a lie. This is one way you can deal with serious cognitive dissonance. And don’t worry – you’re not alone here. This happens to nearly every narcissistic abuse survivor somewhere along the way. You might also be living with a form of post-traumatic stress disorder that significantly affects your everyday reality.

What is cognitive dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (disagreeing cognitions) we experience when we encounter information that contradicts our existing set of beliefs or knowledge. In other words, when we experience cognitive dissonance, we feel anxious because part of us wants to reject new information because it is threatening to our established beliefs – but another part of us knows that the new information may be true and is demanding that we accept it as such. This internal tension can cause stress and anxiety – especially if we are unaware of its source. 

Did you know that your brain betrays you in narcissistic relationships?

It’s true! The chemicals oxytocin, which encourages bonding, endogenous opioids – responsible for pleasure, pain, withdrawal, dependence; a corticotropin-releasing factor which involves withdrawal, and stress; and dopamine which is connected to the craving, seeking, wanting the narcissist back, even when they’ve caused you extreme emotional stress and pain. Toxic relationships and narcissistic abuse lead your neurochemistry to fall into dysregulated states, which makes it really hard to leave a narcissist and even harder to finally get over a toxic relationship. Take Dr. Daniel Amen’s free Brain Health Assessment to discover your Brain Type and your Brain Fit Score!

How can you re-wire your brain after narcissistic abuse?

Your brain is neuroplastic, meaning it can change and heal in some pretty amazing ways. When you’re dealing with the type of brain damage that is caused by narcissistic abuse, you can sort of re-wire your brain yourself. (Of course, you should always check with your medical professional to ensure there’s not some other underlying reason for brain fog or being forgetful.) Speaking of brain fog, let’s define it. 

What is brain fog? 

Brain Fog is the feeling of dissociation or disconnectedness often experienced during and after narcissistic abuse. It’s a very common symptom of narcissistic abuse-induced C-PTSD. Most survivors report feeling lost like they’re not really there, or like they’re sort of watching life happen through a screen or a bubble.

Self-Help Options for Healing Brain Fog After Narcissistic Abuse

Most memory training techniques involve exercises to improve linking objects to certain items or using numbering systems to stay on top of being forgetful. However, oftentimes the only thing that is needed to keep your mind on track is to get organized and to stay that way! Below are a few good tips that will help you:

Use a filing system effectively

Take the time to think through your filing system. Figure out what organization will work best for you – client files versus project files, color coding, and so on. Once you’ve worked out your system, make sure to use it. File all pertinent information in the appropriate file (not a desk pile). It’s also helpful to attach blank sheets of paper to the inside right back flap of file folders. Then, you can take notes on relevant conversations, memos, and meetings right where you need them. And make sure you put your files away in an organized fashion.

Use a task list for projects

Overwhelmed by a complex project? Think through the project concretely, step by step. Then, make a list of all these steps, or tasks, to help you get them done. Here’s another suggestion: Keep your task list stapled to the inside front cover of your project file. That way you can refer to the task list whenever you work on that project. Personally, I LOVE Bullet Journaling for this kind of stuff.

Avoid paper piles

Are you surrounded by a sea of papers at work? Is your dining-room table so covered with mail that you’re not even sure it’s still there? There are generally two things that happen to information buried in a paper pile – either it is forgotten or it can’t be found when you need it. Paper piles are like the plague – they should be avoided at all costs. When you get a piece of paper, you should do one of three things: file it, write the information down elsewhere (such as in your scheduler) and toss it, or simply toss it.

Un-sticky your life

Avoid constantly putting information on sticky notes and other small pieces of paper: If you need to write something down, put it on your Master Plan or on your to-do list. While it’s okay to use a reminder such as a sticky note every once in a while, using such notes all the time will make them less noticeable and—as a result—less useful.

Don’t overdo it

Organize your day according to your energy level: Most of us are at our best in the morning. Therefore, set aside time in the morning to work on projects that require your full focus and ability. Schedule less important meetings and other tasks for later in the day.

Supplements That May Help With Your Healing

Did you know that there are certain supplements designed to help with healing your brain? Did you also know they can be taken while your brain is still in recovery from trauma bonding in narcissistic abuse? Are you wondering what supplements actually do this and if the claims are true? I’ve compiled a list of supplements that have helped me and others I have coached in recovery. It is based on personal experience, what I have read, and what other people have told me. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but my aim is to help you find some useful information about healing your brain in recovery.

*Please note, I am not a medical professional and nothing on this site should be taken as medical advice. Do not take any supplements without first discussing with your doctor and getting their approval.

  • Calm My Brain: Quell your worried mind with this highly effective formula for the relief of anxiousness, featuring the ultimate calming mineral magnesium, the powerful stress-busting herb KSM-66® ashwagandha, and the fast-acting amino acid L-theanine.*
  • Attention Support: Trouble concentrating? Can’t sit still? Attention Support contains natural ingredients selected for their clinically proven benefits to help you relax, stay calm, and increase your attention span.
  • Betaine TMG: Provides the nutrient betaine (trimethylglycine, TMG), which enhances SAMe for healthy mood; provides crucial methyl for DNA, brain neurotransmitters, melatonin, and myelin production; and helps cells regulate their water content.
  • Brain & Body Power: The easiest way to get your daily mind and body essentials – parceled into convenient packets including a brain optimizing multi-vitamin-mineral, and pure omega-3 fish oil capsules.
  • Brain & Body Power Max: The most advanced memory-directed formula – perfectly portioned into convenient daily packets including a multi-vitamin-mineral, maximum memory-boosting nutrients, and omega-3 fish oil for complete daily nutrition.
  • Brain & Memory Power Boost: Our most advanced, best-selling memory formula with a lineup of powerful nutrients clinically proven to help protect circulation in your brain, boost mental connectivity, sharpness, and sustained focus.
  • Brain Boost On-The-Go: Fight brain fatigue and tackle your day with the zero-calorie, caffeine-free, and sugar-free, effervescent berry blend that’s perfect anytime, anywhere. Quick natural energy and hydration to help promote mental clarity. Simply add to water and enjoy.
  • Craving Control: Anyone who has ever tried to make better choices knows all too well how cravings can sabotage the best intentions. Craving Control contains all-natural ingredients that help to calm the craving centers in our brain, balance blood sugar and promotes a positive mood.
  • NeuroLink: Feeling irritable or sad for no reason? NeuroLink helps to balance our emotional ups and downs by delivering an exclusive blend of key nutrients to neurotransmitters in our brain helping us to feel tranquil and clear.
  • BrainMD’s GABA Calming Support: Calm your mind naturally with GABA Calming Support, an exclusive formula that contains clinically studied nutrients that help to calm your brain waves and help act as the biochemical “brakes” your brain needs to slow down your anxious or fretful thoughts.
  • Serotonin Mood Support: Does your mind race with negative thoughts? Try our customer favorite Serotonin Mood Support, which contains a patented form of saffron along with other key nutrients that help to promote calmness, positive mood, serotonin balance, and even healthy weight management.
  • SAMe Mood and Movement 400: SAMe Mood & Movement 400 provides SAMe (S-AdenosylMethionine), a nutrient with very high energy that helps power numerous enzymes important for the brain, joints, liver, muscles, and other organs. SAMe is fundamental to the body’s renewal, repair, and overall well-being.

Going Forward in Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Being in a relationship with a narcissistic abuser causes survivors to experience a form of trauma and shock. For this reason, trauma therapy is helpful because it acknowledges that healing is a process and that there is more than one way to move forward.

Trauma therapy is often focused on the past but will also guide you toward future goals and dreams while teaching you how to deal with various triggers. Awareness of cognitive dissonance, trauma bonding & emotional flashbacks can be instrumental in understanding what your inner experience of the relationship was so you can work through it & begin letting go. Find a therapist here. 

You might also want to try narcissistic abuse recovery coaching, or if you’re looking for more of a small group setting with a lower price point, try our small group coaching plan – there are significant benefits to this and the price is significantly less than one-on-one coaching. 

Takeaway

You are not to blame for your traumatic relationship with a narcissist. By understanding what happened to you and having the right support on your healing journey, you can go on to live a happy and meaningful life. After overcoming narcissistic abuse, you may find yourself feeling like a whole new person. If you have found yourself in that stage, take comfort knowing you’re not alone. It is a journey that is as exhilarating as it is exhausting, but the end result is well worth all the effort.

You can recover. You just have to take your time, and you have to trust the process. Give yourself permission to rebuild your life from the ground up. It’s going to be a long and difficult road, but it will be worth it in the end.

Get Help With Your Narcissistic Abuse Recovery

Cognitive Dissonance, Trauma Bonding & Healing in Recovery – Here’s the link for your free tools.

Gaslighting and Revenge in Narcissistic Abuse

Gaslighting and Revenge in Narcissistic Abuse

You’ve probably wondered what a narcissist thinks about – and, if you’re anything like me, who told them they could TREAT PEOPLE THIS WAY! You might wonder if it hurts their feelings when someone corrects them? Or, what your ex was thinking when they started dating you? The fact is that narcissists are relentless liars. And they have no shame. They will take extreme measures to tell you exactly what they want you to hear without any regard for the truth. Their main concern is only getting their desperate need for narcissistic supply met.

What is Narcissistic Abuse?

Narcissistic abuse is a way of relating to others involving the exploitation, blatant manipulation, and control of others in order to meet the abuser’s own needs. It can exist in a relationship between any two people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or type of relationship.

Narcissistic abusers are often difficult to spot and even harder to leave. Whether or not they have been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder isn’t as important as whether or not they have narcissistic traits and behaviors.

For example, a narcissistic abuser can be charming, charismatic, and fun at times – and they can turn on a dime and become your worst nightmare. However, thanks to their powerful ability to project, deflect and play the victim, narcissists are rarely confronted about their behavior.

Of course, this is possibly due to the fact that they frequently surround themselves with enablers (AKA flying monkeys) who don’t want to believe that anything is wrong. 

The effects of narcissistic abuse can last for years after the relationship has ended and may lead the survivor to develop complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). C-PTSD from narcissistic abuse differs from PTSD caused by experiences such as car accidents or military combat in that it involves re-living or re-experiencing rather than avoidance or numbing of memories. 

Are You Being Gaslighted?

Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic narcissists use to control someone and make them feel crazy. It doesn’t matter how great a relationship you have with your partner or spouse; as long as there’s abuse and manipulation, your relationship isn’t healthy. Gaslighting occurs when someone tells you that what you’re experiencing isn’t authentic or not genuine, in other words causing the victim to question their feelings, instincts, and sanity. Does this mean that you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship? Not necessarily. You could have a great relationship, but both you and your partner could have issues like low self-esteem or depression that make emotional abuse more likely (and more difficult to spot). Read more in Toxic Narcissism in Relationships: Top 10 Warning Signs You’re Being Gaslighted

Are you worried you’re being gaslighted? Take the Gaslighting Self-Assessment right here and find out for sure. You’ll be directed to resources that will help you in your current situation.

Can’t Go No Contact?

First and foremost, you need to know that nothing you do will force the narcissist to change. They will only change if it benefits them. You must understand that this person does not have the same morals, emotions, or feelings as ordinary people. These men cannot be around a good and decent person or have friends who care about them. They are only after one thing in life, and that is control. They can never be satisfied with what they have accomplished because there will always be someone out there that they think has more than whatever they have at the moment. One way or another, they will get it from you even if you give it to them willingly. Unless that is, you know these 10 Easy Steps to Torture a Narcissist Into Submission.

You Want Revenge on the Narcissist?

Listen, if you were ever to feel like you want revenge on the narcissist in your life, trust me when I tell you that you are FAR from alone. But is it worth the trouble? The truth is that whether or not you’re a narcissist’s target, interacting with them can be exhausting (to put it mildly). That’s why it’s essential to keep the upper hand and ensure that they are the ones chasing you – not the other way around.

It doesn’t even have to be anything drastic – act interested in their lives, but not to the extent that they think they can manipulate you. Narcissists may have many problems, but remembering how to handle them (and how NOT to manage them) can be extremely rewarding—for both parties involved. Read more in How to Play the Narcissist’s Game (And Beat Them At It).

Toxic relationships have a huge effect on survivors’ lives. They affect every aspect of the survivor’s life and can destroy the survivor’s self-esteem, sense of self-worth, confidence, and trust in their own judgment – as well as their ability to relate to other people.

Trust Your Gut

Trust your instincts, always. When it comes to the narcissist, you, unfortunately, need to be on guard at all times. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it probably is. Take action: confront the narcissist (if safe to do so), call the authorities, alert family members, tell other people about what’s going on – do whatever it takes to get out. The quicker you can get away from the narcissist, the more easily you can recover from their atrocious abuse. Learn everything you need to know about going no contact at our No Contact Support Center and visit our PLAN (Planning to Leave a Narcissist) Resource Center here.

Want to better understand why narcissists are what they are and what you can expect from them? Learn more about the narcissist’s cycle of abuse.

Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today

Online help is readily available for survivors of narcissistic abuse. Here are some options to begin healing from narcissistic abuse right away.

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Releasing Your Past to Choose Your Future After Narcissistic Abuse

Releasing Your Past to Choose Your Future After Narcissistic Abuse

Narcissistic abuse takes a lot from its victims: Our sense of self, our security, our trust and happiness, and sometimes even our memories. Often, when we finally break away from a toxic relationship with a narcissist (or any other abuser), we are left feeling like there is no true “us” anymore. We are merely empty shells of the people we used to be.  Can you relate to that feeling?

Do You Remember Who the Narcissist Really Was?

When you first leave a relationship with an abuser, it’s easy to look back on all the good times you had with your now-ex as if they were real memories instead of manufactured ones. You may even feel that you miss your ex. But in reality, this person was never really who you thought he or she was.

This person was the false self that your partner created for the express purpose of gaining control over you. Narcissists are expert manipulators who use their false selves to get close to their victims and then use their true selves to manipulate them into staying put by causing fear, guilt, and shame.

Are you ready to release your past and own your future?

If you are ready to release your past, to forgive yourself, and to love yourself despite what has happened, you will also be able to find your own place in the world. You will find your voice and your truth, and you can live confidently with a deep knowing that you are enough.

To do this, you have to let go of the shame and self-blame. You need to understand how their abuse works so that you can recognize it for what it is – the actions of someone who wasn’t capable of seeing you as their equal, who may have had a sort of “god complex” – and who wanted to use and abuse you as an object. If we see these things clearly, we can begin to heal ourselves.

Your Past Doesn’t Define Your Future

Imagine for a moment trying to put on the clothes you wore as a baby or toddler. The fact is, the clothes may be yours but they simply don’t fit anymore. It’s the same with reacting to our past with the narcissist. It makes no sense to go back and dwell because the past doesn’t define your future. Your past was full of narcissistic abuse and was probably traumatic, problematic. It caused havoc and made you doubt everything you thought was true – but you can heal your past for a healthy present…and future.

Is Past Behavior Always an Indicator of Future Behavior?

Your past definitely influences the future. What you went through or the mistakes you made will impact your thoughts and feelings which can lead to a crossroads. One road leads to unconscious thoughts and feelings that trigger destructive behavior and repeat circumstances over and over. Another road leads to healing the past, becoming intentional with thoughts and feelings which promotes healthier choices and actions. The good news is that your past behavior doesn’t have to be an indicator of what’s coming down the road if you do the internal work to heal.

Take Advice from Maya Angelou

Author, poet, activist, and all-around goddess Maya Angelou famously advised us to “do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” My point is that the choices we make are influenced by a variety of things including:

  • Our age
  • Our support system…or lack of it
  • Our economics
  • Our level of education
  • Our advantages…and disadvantages
  • The available choices at the time

We may make entirely different choices when any of these factors change. What we chose in the past does not mean it’s what we would choose today or tomorrow. As we grow, mature, find support, and experience different circumstances, we change and so does the quality of our choices. If we stay the same and keep making poor choices, it’s important to look at what is holding us back and do the work to heal and move forward.

Some Things are Out of Your Control

Sometimes circumstances are beyond your control – and when a narcissist is involved, they do everything in their power to prevent you from controlling your own life and circumstances. What you experienced in the past wasn’t anything you chose directly, but something that happened to you.

Still, it’s really important to remember that this doesn’t mean you can’t control the future. You may be unable to change what happened to you in the past, but going through tough situations does provide lessons and awareness that you can take with you and use in the present and future.

In a way, having things happen outside of your control can offer you mental resources that give you control moving forward. It may be as simple as choosing to forgive or learning you can manage stress or uncertainty. These are powerful tools to have today and tomorrow.

Your past doesn’t define your future, your awareness does. What you are conscious of, the choices you make with intention, and the actions you take today are what influence your future more than anything.

Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Resources

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8 Powerful Self-Care Tips for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors

8 Powerful Self-Care Tips for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors

“Loving yourself isn’t vanity. It’s sanity.” ~Katrina Mayer

When you are in the grip of narcissistic abuse, it can be hard to think about your own needs. You may be so preoccupied with what is happening to you that you feel numb, or so angry that you feel like an emotional volcano about to explode. Either way, it can be hard to take care of yourself.

Is Self-Care Selfish?

No matter what the toxic people in your life would have you believe, self-care is not selfish. It is essential in order to maintain your physical and emotional health. And this is even more important for people who have survived narcissistic abuse because, for many of us, our whole lives have been about making other people happy. It’s time to focus on yourself, possibly for the first time in your life.

Have you survived narcissistic abuse?

If you have been in a relationship with a narcissist, you know how frustrating and exhausting it is to repeatedly deal with their crazy-making and mind games. When they aren’t treating you like your feelings don’t matter, they are making you feel crazy for having feelings in the first place! It can be that hard to be in a relationship with someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), but you probably already know that it is possible to leave such relationships when you learn how to recognize the signs of narcissistic abuse and how to set boundaries.

What you might not realize though is that self-care is a vital part of healing from narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship. If a partner or ex-partner has been abusive toward you, you might have experienced a lot of trauma. It can be hard to get out of bed in the morning, and even to take care of yourself and your needs when you’re in the depths of recovery.

Why is self-care important in narcissistic abuse recovery?

Everyone heals on their own time frame, but by practicing some self-care tips for narcissistic abuse survivors you can improve your quality of life and begin the process of healing from narcissistic abuse. But without proper guidance, healing from narcissistic abuse can be long and arduous.

It’s very common for adult children of narcissistic parents (ACONs) to suffer from Complex PTSD. Worse, many ACONs also end up getting into romantic relationships with narcissists and other toxic people – it feels normal to them. That’s why, without proper support, it is so easy to fall back into old patterns.

Did you lose yourself to narcissistic abuse?

Narcissistic abuse is a particularly vicious form of psychological abuse. It is important to recognize that narcissistic abuse takes a toll on your mind and body.  After experiencing an abusive relationship, it is normal to feel like you have lost yourself. You may also feel like you don’t know how to take care of yourself anymore. These feelings are often due to the way you were treated in your past relationships and can develop into a very unhealthy pattern if not addressed. After abuse, your whole sense of self needs to be rebuilt and nurtured.

Self-Care Tips for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors

Self-care is important for all of us, but especially for those in the healing process following narcissistic abuse. You can use these self-care tips as tools to help you heal and recover from the effects of narcissistic abuse and re-establish a sense of inner peace within yourself. Even if you have not left your abuser yet, self-care can help protect your mental health while you decide to leave or work on other aspects of your life that are related to the abuse.

Here are some self-care tips for narcissistic abuse survivors:

1. Remember You Are a Whole Person.

It may sound silly, but if you are still reeling from the abuse of a narcissist, it can be difficult to remember that you’re still a whole, multifaceted person. Narcissistic abuse survivors often find themselves existing in a fog of confusion and pain, and being told repeatedly that they are “crazy” or “imagining things.” It can be hard to muster the motivation or energy for self-care when you feel so beaten down. If you’ve been abused by a narcissist, it’s important to know that what you’re experiencing isn’t your fault. Narcissists are experts at gaslighting their victims into believing that they have no right to their own feelings or opinions. You have every right to grieve the loss of these relationships and experiences, and to take time to work through your feelings. You also have a right to care for yourself in whatever way is best for you. This video explains exactly what happens to you during narcissistic abuse and why you stop feeling like a whole person – this is exactly why it’s so important to take care of yourself now.

2. Assess Your Needs and Make a Self-Care Plan.

Maybe the most important step in self-care after narcissistic abuse is knowing what you need in order to feel cared for and nurtured. You’ve been through the hell of emotional and psychological abuse at the hands of a narcissist. You might just need to start by taking a bit of time for yourself. You can practice setting boundaries. Take a week or a weekend and just turn off the phones, close the door, and relax. If possible, use this time to disengage from the narcissist.  Breathe deeply. Meditate. Stretch out any kinks or tension in your body. Do something creative or spiritual.  Then sit down and write down your self-care plan. Note: Make sure you pencil in time to get enough sleep and relaxation. You can’t think straight or make good decisions when you’re stressed and exhausted. Watch this if you need to remember how important self-care is for survivors of narcissistic abuse!

3. Don’t Discount the Value of Positive Affirmations.

When it comes to reprogramming your mind after narcissistic abuse, you have to take advantage of the power of affirmations. You may think affirmations are lies you are telling yourself in the beginning. But even if that is the case, keep at it! Eventually, your mind will be reprogrammed and your truth can change to one that’s far more desirable. This video offers one simple way you can get in your affirmations while you sleep! Save it to your bookmarks so you can use it anytime you need.

4. Find A Constructive Physical Outlet To Release Negative Emotions.

You, like many narcissistic abuse survivors, may have found a way to cope with the situation in an unhealthy way. For example, you might have started drinking or eating too much to stuff away the pain, anger, and justified rage that you feel on a daily basis. You know those habits are quite destructive – but it feels better than the alternative, right? If this sounds like you, you might consider looking for healthy physical outlets to release those negative emotions. This is why you will want to take up kickboxing, yoga, or dancing such as Zumba classes. Those are great ways to release the painful emotions that you are feeling. Bonus: It also helps you become more physically fit – revenge body, here you come! After all, when you consider how narcissists exploit you, you have to realize that narcissistic abuse recovery is a whole-self healing journey. Get the details on that in this video.

5. Journal Away the Pain.

You’ve spent way too much time worrying about everyone else in your life – and the narcissist has facilitated this by requiring you to make them the center of your world. This means you’ve got a lot of thoughts, feelings, and unspoken words flying around inside you, likely adding to your pain. My suggestion here is to go out and buy a journal or a diary. Or just use a plain notebook if you prefer. Either way, use this to write in every day about how you are feeling, your thoughts, what you have been doing, and any other information that is important to you. The idea is that whatever you put into this journal is just for you. You can tear pages out if they are painful to read later on, or you can keep the book forever as a reminder of how far you have come. Personally, I prefer bullet journaling these days – here’s how I do it.

6. Pay Attention To Your Breathing.

Did you know that if you breathe through your mouth, you are going to feel more anxious?  It’s true! And that will only cause you to think more about the pain you had endured. The best way to stay relaxed is by breathing through your nostrils. In fact, this is something that patients that suffer from insomnia are told to do before they attempt to fall asleep. Breathing through your nostrils will help lower anxiety levels and the more you do it, the more you will rewire your brain into a calmer state. Try the exercises I share here for help.

7. Tap Into Your Creativity

I always say that narcissistic abuse recovery is a great time to start a new project. Maybe you want to redecorate a room in your home, or learn to paint. Perhaps you’d like to write a book or a story. Maybe you’re a songwriter? When you listen to songs like Stronger Than Ever by Christina Aguilera, you know she was inspired by her own healing from abuse. And this is a positive way to deal with pain and trauma. Channeling your pain into creativity is highly therapeutic. Or, if you’re struggling with finding a project because you’re drowning in your own clutter (a common issue for survivors), you might try a decluttering project, as described here.

8. Ask For Help

Possibly the most important step to practicing healthy self-care tips for narcissistic abuse survivors is surrounding yourself with supportive people who understand what you’re going through. I think it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are millions of people who have experienced the pain that comes with being in an abusive relationship, so don’t feel like your situation is unique or uncommon. If you are struggling, be sure to look into finding a therapist and/or a narcissistic abuse recovery coach who understands what you’re going through. They can give you some helpful tips and since they may have been there themselves, they can empathize in ways no one else can. There’s also the option to join a small Zoom coaching group. If therapy or coaching aren’t within your budget, you can also join a free support narcissistic abuse recovery support group. The more support you have, the better! It MATTERS.

Get help with narcissistic abuse recovery right now.

Setting Boundaries Makes Narcissists Take Responsibility for Their Behavior

Setting Boundaries Makes Narcissists Take Responsibility for Their Behavior

One of the most commonly shared qualities among victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse is the inability to comfortably set boundaries with other people. This is a primary reason that a narcissist may have targeted you in the first place. Plus, since a large number of narcissistic abuse survivors report they also had a traumatic childhood, they were nearly raised to accept people who actively overstep their boundaries. And, to further complicate the situation, most survivors weren’t even taught they were allowed to set boundaries in the first place.

How do you set boundaries with narcissists? 

To establish healthy boundaries, you need to be clear with your partner who you are, what you want, your beliefs and values, and specifically what your limits are. Narcissists do not allow this. They are known for pushing and stepping on boundaries in order to manipulate and control you more easily. Whether you’re trying to set boundaries with narcissists or with other “healthier” people, you might find yourself struggling. Here is some help with how to set boundaries with narcissists and other difficult people. And here’s a little more advice on how to set boundaries with narcissists.

How do narcissists react when you set boundaries?

Something you’ll notice when you’re setting boundaries for yourself with a narcissist is that it can easily make them uncomfortable. In a lot of ways, due to your typical conflict-avoidant behavior when you’ve been involved with a narcissist, people in your life have become used to no real resistance when it comes to offhanded comments or using others for their advantage. Sadly, even the “non-narcissists” in your life can end up taking advantage of you unintentionally.

But when it comes to narcissists, there’s a whole other side of the coin. When you set boundaries and enforce them, it makes the narcissist take responsibility for their abusive behavior, something that most narcissists absolutely refuse to do. And since your desire to hold firm in your boundaries is very likely new and scary for them, it’ll be very off-putting for them, to put it mildly. This is one of the reasons that boundaries can come off as aggressive at first, even with the non-narcissists around you.

But while you’re only being vaguely defensive, narcissists will take your desire and ability to set boundaries as a personal threat that you’re making them have some actual responsibility for thinking about what they say and do before they do it.

As uncomfortable as it may be for them, though, the non-narcissists in their lives will most definitely get over it and start to learn how to act and treat people with respect. Taking responsibility for your behavior means that you can no longer just do things mindlessly. Narcissists, of course, will never move past it and will either abandon the relationship or do whatever is necessary to mentally push their partners into conforming to their own controlling ways.

Why is it so important to set boundaries in narcissistic abuse recovery?

When you go through narcissistic abuse, you’ll find that your boundaries are actively and aggressively pushed back. Narcissists are notoriously disrespectful of boundaries. While a narcissist seems charming in the beginning, you’ll quickly learn that while you’re expected to fully respect their own boundaries, they will never respect your own.

After all, to respect a boundary would mean that you’d acually have to take people’s feelings and desires into account. This is a pretty realistic expectation for someone to have, and it’s in no way difficult if you just decide to be kind and treat others with respect. But narcissists are known for their lack of empathy and lack of remorse, not to mention that they have famously double standards.

Is it too much to ask someone to respect your boundaries?

To put it briefly: no. Literally anyone and everyone has the basic human right to set their own boundaries, and pretty much everyone has the right to expect their boundaries to be respected.

What happens if I cross someone else’s boundaries? 

It’s very seldom that others have boundaries that you would accidentally cross just by being nice, but if you do, apologize and keep that in mind. These boundaries aren’t just for others to be responsible, though.

Some boundaries also force you to take responsibility and act in a certain way that either benefits you and helps you towards success or helps others. For example, if you set boundaries on yourself for finances, you’re holding yourself accountable for being responsible when it comes to the money you’re spending and how you’re spending it.

It can be uncomfortable for you to hold yourself responsible, but it needs to be done. In the short term, others will be uncomfortable with having to be responsible like this. However, it’s better in the long run for everyone.

By being more conscious and willing to think about what you’re actually doing, everyone will be able to communicate and interact with you in a more satisfying manner. Those who refuse to adapt will be looked down upon, but everyone else will be a lot happier with one another, since this kind of behavior transfers from person to person.

Never Apologize for Having Boundaries in Your Life

The reason most people set boundaries is in order to have a happier and more successful life. But you may end up second-guessing your decision afterward, thinking you were being too harsh and overreacted.

You might find yourself in such a situation, feeling the need to apologize for some reason after setting a boundary, as if it’s your fault that you feel as if you’re not being respected.

That isn’t really the truth. Your feelings are simply a reaction to the situation you’re in, and you have every right to feel the way you do. You should feel good about having boundaries because it’s a very healthy thing to do for yourself.

It’ll be uncomfortable for you at first if you’re used to being passive in your engagements with others, but it’s a change that needs to happen. You’ll have to force yourself to stay firm with these boundaries and be unapologetic in doing so.

It’s important not to seem apologetic about having these boundaries, because otherwise people will keep prodding at you until you break under pressure, and your boundaries collapse.

Never apologizing means that you won’t fold on your boundaries and you won’t even be remotely upset about adhering to them. It goes a lot deeper than just presenting others with a strong demeanor.

You need to genuinely believe that there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the boundaries that you had set in order to improve your life. One thing to avoid when being unapologetic is being aggressive or abrasive.

It’s easy to get carried away in trying to be strong with your boundaries that you actually end up being overly confrontational, and in doing so, you’ll push people away a lot more than you might like – particularly your friends and other loved ones.

If you’re super aggressive about not being apologetic, it can actually undermine your efforts and leave you with less support and more people that don’t like you. Not apologizing is very important so that others won’t look at your boundaries as obstacles they need to overcome.

If you don’t firmly believe in your own boundaries, you can’t expect others to give them the respect that they deserve. Instead, they’ll find ways around it and any effort you made in putting that barrier up will be for nothing.

When it comes to boundaries, people are often surprised at first simply because they don’t expect you to set them. If you encounter someone who really demands that you apologize for having simple things in life like boundaries, chances are that it’s in your best interest to cut off that person as soon as you can.

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